These days, it seems as though nutrition recommendations are as polarizing as the political climate permeating the country. There is cause for celebration that we have finally reached peak awareness about the human and environmental health benefits of turning to a more plant-based and organic diet. With over 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions being generated from agriculture worldwide, small changes towards eating plant-based will significantly reduce environmental impact, while simultaneously curbing the escalation of chronic metabolic disorders. But regardless of its recent popularity, the vegan diet will likely never become the reigning dietary choice due to significant cultural and economic contributions of animal proteins throughout our nation’s history. While the notion that we should eat more plant-based proteins invokes panic for many, perhaps there is an important common ground we are more likely to achieve in the short term.
Pick Your Favorite Moniker: Flexitarian, Reducetarian or Go All In
It’s not surprising that cattle and dairy ranchers get fearful and back into a corner when the idea of reducing meat consumption comes up in conversation. The scientific evidence favoring reduced reliance on animal proteins has grown substantially and finally, a strong argument can be made that plant-based diets provide a viable solution to a variety of health problems. But, with this knowledge, a very important distinction must be made – not all vegetables offer the same contribution to health, and not all vegans and vegetarians fare better than people who eat proper proportions and modest amounts of animal protein. Conventional vegetables and grains used in processed foods doused in pesticides are equally detrimental to health as consuming animal proteins raised by unnatural and unethical practices.
Not to Sustain but to Regenerate
Therein lies the critical importance of a compromise towards Sustainable Nutrition, an inclusive approach that will be far more effective in improving population and ecological health worldwide. Sustainable Nutrition refers just as much to production as it does to consumption and provides a guideline to eating behavior that holds the value of regenerative agriculture and disease reduction paramount over personal, individual dietary preferences. Organic and sustainably cultivated crops and animals raised as nature intended them to be raised is the best option to improving human and environmental health. With the knowledge that reduced reliance on animal proteins can significantly lower GHG emissions, so can rotational grazing and carbon sequestration practices for the cattle industry. The truth is, we desperately need both in order to disrupt the progression of the environmental decay we are witnessing! Grasslands are critical to a healthy ecosystem, prevent soil erosion and provide large areas where carbon can be pulled from the atmosphere and returned to the soil. Thus, we have to allow ruminators to care for the land as they have been evolutionarily designed to do.
Five Simple Rules
So, while my personal dietary philosophy honors a plant-based diet, there is enormous potential in coming together for the common goal of revolutionizing our food system to ensure optimal health equity for the future. These simple five rules will get us there:
1. Organic, all day, every day
2. Buy Local – Support farmers markets and local ranchers
3. Eat free-range, grass-fed, sustainably and ethically raised animals
4. Support ranchers doing the work of regenerative agriculture and carbon sequestration
5. Eat mostly plants! Meatless is not just for Mondays anymore, it’s critical for survival!
The best part is there are plenty of recipes to round out a plant-based diet that address nearly every type of craving. Click here to visit our Recipe Library for ideas of how to get started.